Jeff Kruse

APRIL 14, 2017




Tuesday the 18th is the deadline for bills to pass out of their original committees, so the next few days should be interesting.  For example, the House Health Care Committee has 30 bills on their schedule today.  I am not sure what their fate will be because I am not part of the inner circle in the House, but that does seem to be somewhat aggressive.  The one thing we do know is we will know most of the agenda for the rest of Session based on the bills that come out of committee or that are sent to another committee to be kept alive. 


I thought this might be a good time to talk about some of the bills I have sponsored that at this point will not even get a hearing.  First is Senate Bill 648.  Very simply this would have required salary negotiations between the executive branch and the public employee unions to be subject to the public meeting rules.  The way it happens now is the negotiations happen behind closed doors and the Legislature is just stuck paying the bill for whatever comes out.  Due to the fact salaries and benefits are the biggest item in the budget it would only make sense for this to be an open and transparent process.  I think it would be beneficial for the Legislature and the public to know what is going on and have the ability to weigh in during the process.  In all other areas of expending tax dollars there is such an opportunity for involvement.  We keep hearing words like “open” and “transparent” but at this point it is all talk, no action.


The second bill is Senate Bill 864 which deals with putting a time limit on administrative rules.  When legislation is passed, the agencies impacted will write administrative rules for the implementation of the law.  Beyond that, they will continue to modify their rules over time.  There have been many times when the rule end up looking nothing like the legislation they are supposed to be implementing.  This can be a problem because rules do have the same authority as law.  With Separation of Powers it is the Legislative branch that creates the laws and the Executive branch that implements them.  If the rules have gone a different direction than what was intended, the only recourse the Legislature has is to pass another law and hope for the best.  This bill would have required a mandatory review of rules every six years to require the agencies to justify their actions.  The volumes of administrative rules are twice as large as the actual laws and it is time we have some oversight of that process.


Finally, we have Senate Joint Resolution 38, dealing with emergency clauses.  In the normal course of events a bill passed this Session would not take effect until next January.  There is a great deal of logic behind this process, as it gives agencies time to prepare and gives the public a chance to express opinions.  If there is an emergency clause on the bill it takes effect upon passage.  There are some very good reasons for an emergency clause to be used, but they should only be used when the needed time for action makes it a requirement.  Putting an emergency clause on other bills, and it happens a lot, denies on the front-end the ability of the public to comment before the bill becomes law.  Our suggestion in SJR 38 would simply require a two thirds majority vote on any bill with an emergency clause.  The thought was this might discourage using this tool simply to avoid the publics ability to get involved in the issue.


These three bills are about openness and accountability, something the Governor said she too wants.  However, the majority party does not seem to be interested in taking any of these actions.  We currently are seeing a continuation of things happening behind closed doors and, quite honestly it is starting to get very frustrating.  My hope is the process will be open soon, but I am not holding my breath.




Senator Jeff Kruse

email: Sen.JeffKruse@oregonlegislature.gov I phone: 503-986-1701
address: 900 Court St NE, S-205, Salem, OR, 97301
website: http://www.oregonlegislature.gov/kruse